Sometimes it’s the little things, the small but significant details in and out of the car, that characterize the potential size of a Formula 1 driver.
The most beautiful example of this in recent times was in Azerbaijan in 2019, when after the accident in Q2 Charles Leclerc returned not to his driving room to beat himself privately, but to the Ferrari garage.
As the qualifiers continued without him, Leclerc stood side by side, side by side – in front of the cameras – with his team to follow the rest of the session.
A likely candidate for the pole position until his mistake in entering part of Baku Castle, Leclerc was to blame for himself, and his mistake, as he repeatedly told himself over the radio after hitting the barrier, was stupid.
But in losing to Leclerc he also somehow won, his very public display of unity and togetherness only pleased the team a little more as he stole the hearts of the Scuderia from Sebastian Vettel, his four-time World Cup teammate.
Little things can reveal a lot about the character and appearance of the driver, and it seemed so right after the collision of Land Norris who finished the race with Pierre Gasly last weekend. Miami Grand Prix.
Game. Face. On. 👊 @LandoNorris
Barcelona 🔜🇪🇸 pic.twitter.com/M5qRAlvVfv
– McLaren (@ McLarenF1) May 9, 2022
After the right back of his AlphaTauri received a blow from Fernando Alonso – in the middle of one of his abrupt days – in the previous lap, Gasly was still in the process of examining the full extent of the damage in lap 40 when he came to be passed by Mick Schumacher, Kevin Magnussen and Norris.
As Gasly, visibly struggling to keep his car on the road, ran wide through two consecutive turns, Haas drivers bypassed him in turn 8 before colliding with Norris at the start of the next straight.
With all the safety improvements in F1 in recent years, plane crashes remain an ever-present but occasionally neglected risk with a level of risk not mitigated by long, curved planes – built to cause misunderstandings and misjudgments and lined with hard and unforgivable walls – now a feature of F1 street trails from Miami and Jeddah to Baku and beyond.
The accident between Norris and Gasly, thankfully, happened early enough down the straight to avoid a potential disaster, McLaren – after losing his right rear tire in the initial collision – avoided hitting the walls hard as he turned to Stop.
It was a sudden, dramatic and, above all, completely avoidable incident, forcing Norris to retire for only the third time since the start of the 2020 season.
In such circumstances, it is not difficult to imagine some drivers on the current network, with the adrenaline rising after finishing the race in a slow car in an unexpected and unnecessary way, without the need to call 50 shades of blue in the air.
The usual convention is to kick the routine ‘that idiot’ out of your system at the earliest possible opportunity, immediately share the blame on another driver and worry (or not) just about whether you did it right later.
However, it is now clear that Norris is unique among his peers, and his actions in the collision were wonderfully disarming.
“Ah, I’m out guys,” he simply reported on the radio before apologizing to the team for his involvement in the incident. “Fuck, I’m sorry about that. I don’t know what happened… ”
As the Safety Car circled, television footage showed Norris returning to McLaren’s garage, where he calmly and quietly took off and lowered his basketball-themed helmet before leaving. There is no histrionism in throwing gloves here.
“It’s hard,” he told Sky Sports after the race. “I’ve looked at it a few times now, but it’s screwed up. I don’t know if he had any damage or anything.
“I left space, obviously. I knew it was to my right, but the trail somehow tilted to the right and I was going with the course of the circle and it didn’t look like it was. I thought I did what I would have done otherwise, but it just ended up being a stupid accident.
“I am just annoyed, I guess. We could have won maybe one or two points today, maybe nothing more, but it’s happening. We are happy that we did not lose too much. “
He would later get even more annoyed when he realized that Gasly was predestined for the DNF the whole time, the AlphaTauria driver took a little too long to accept the damage from Alonso’s attack in the first turn and took someone else with him.
But Norris’s measured reaction in the heat of the moment, over the radio and in the TV pen was refreshing and offered an insight into the way he runs his race.
Norris has won many fans over the last three seasons with his daring performances at the ever-improving McLaren, his six podium places and regular qualifying successes – not just his pole in Sochi, where he was unlucky not to win in 2021 – creating an aura of potential future world champion.
Not only the charm of the neighborhood boy is associated with this talent, but also maturity, a certain spirit and a sense of responsibility. As Leclercpromises to take him very far.
Sometimes it’s small things…